Winners and losers from college football conference realignment

By Ian Curtis -

Now that the dust has settled on the latest round of conference realignment, let’s take a look at the biggest winners and losers of this edition of musical chairs.

They may not be who you expect.

Winner: SMU boosters

By the dual powers of wealth and persistence, SMU is back in a Power 4 conference for the first time since the Southwest Conference dissolved in 1996 and will be one of the trio of schools joining the ACC in 2024.

The Mustangs clawed their way back by hopping from the Western Athletic Conference, to Conference USA, and finally to the American Athletic Conference — and they made the final step by giving up their television revenue for their first nine years in the ACC.

This was offset by the fact SMU boosters were able to raise $100 million in a single week to ease the transition — all reportedly from a group of 20-30 boosters.

Money may not buy happiness, but if you’re an SMU Mustang, it’ll get you pretty dang close.

Loser: Oregon State and Washington State

The Pac-12 is dead. Long live the Pac-2.

With the conference’s collapse forcing its members to scatter to the winds of the Big Ten, Big 12, and ACC, there were two members who were left stranded — Washington State and Oregon State.

In an attempt to stave off demotion to the Group of Five, the Cougars and Beavers will be playing six Mountain West games as part of a scheduling alliance that ensures the Pac-2 will survive for at least another season

But every other power conference had the opportunity to take Oregon State and Washington State, and all declined. That has to be concerning.

Winner: Big Ten fans with airline mile credit card rewards

The Big Ten stretches from Los Angeles to Piscataway, New Jersey, and it’s about to make a killing for airlines everywhere.

Rutgers makes a road trip to USC a week after hosting UCLA. Washington makes the trip to New Jersey as well, plus the Huskies add a road game at Penn State. And Maryland makes the trip to Eugene, Oregon, to face the Ducks…well, you get the idea.

It would be a tall order to make a more logistically challenging conference if you tried. This is the stuff 13-year-old me would make in NCAA Football 14 because I was bored.

To those Big Ten fans who are used to making road trips across the Midwest for games — it might be time to sign up for a credit card with some airline mile rewards.

Loser: People who like accurate naming conventions

There once was a time, long ago, when the names of college football conferences were self-explanatory. The Big 8 had eight teams. The Big East was made up of schools on the East Coast. The Pac-10 consisted of schools neighboring the Pacific Ocean — plus Arizona and Arizona State, who count as Oceanfront Property to George Strait, at least.

Now the Atlantic Coast Conference features a school with a view of the Pacific Ocean from campus, in Stanford. The Big Ten has a whopping 18 teams. Even the SEC stretches west to Texas and Oklahoma, which geographically aren’t exactly in the southeast on a map of the U.S..

Honestly, credit to the AAC for being made up of schools located in the United States of America. That’s how low the standard is.

Winner: The SEC

At this point, there’s nearly a Power 2 made up of the SEC and Big Ten at the head of the college football hierarchy.

And the SEC is the only one of those with a reasonable travel distance. They kicked off the latest round of realignment by adding Texas and Oklahoma, and both make for reasonable travel partners given the conference already has a presence in Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana.

Plus, both programs bring large trophy cases to their new home. Both schools made at least one appearance in the four-team College Football Playoff, and have won a combined five of the last seven Big 12 championship titles.

With instability rocking conferences across the country, It’s hard not to be bullish on the SEC’s future.

Loser: UMass basketball fans

One move that’s easy to overlook is UMass’ move to the Mid-American Conference beginning in 2025 — and this time, it’s for all sports.

The Minutemen were previously in the MAC from 2012-15, as football-only members, before going independent in 2016. Now, UMass is pulling out of the Atlantic 10 in favor of taking all of their programs west. And that includes men’s basketball, which has ruffled some feathers among the Minutemen faithful.

Sure, UMass hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2014, but it’s still the program of Dr. J and John Calipari, right? Well, that doesn’t mean anything in today’s money-driven world of college athletics. Just like every other move in this realignment cycle, money outweighs everything — even history.

UMass decided that revenue from FBS football outweighs just shy of 50 years of championship history in the Atlantic 10. Time will tell if it is the right call.

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Comments (17)

Honorable mention to ther American. They want to kill ’em off but the AAC won’t die yet.

Yes, the AAC seems to be managing their collective decline much better than the rest of the Group-of-5.

For Oregon State and Washington State, going to the Mountain West is a humiliating relegation.

Mountain West will be only real Conference out West while Arizona State,Washington & Stanford will do lots & lots & lots of traveling.

I’d put down college football fans as the losers. Even alot of the “winners” kinda hate their conference distribution .

Incomplete – Mountain West. The MW may not survive when it’s media rights expire in 2026. Much of which hinges on what happens to the ACC and OSU/WSU.

Mountain West is a must,must for real College Athetics especially Football in Western United States.

The Mountain West may vary well split off. SDSU, Boise, UNLV, and CSU have already been part of the realignment discussions (to varying engagement). If OSU/WSU are shutout from the XII or ACC we may see the new PAC taking on those MW schools along with Air Force and Fresno.

The Mountain West will survive. Whether Oregon State and Washington State join the MWC, or the MWC teams join the Pac, it’s all the same, doesn’t matter whether the conference name is “MWC” or “Pac”.

No doubt, OSU and WSU fans think they should be able to pick and choose about half of the MWC to join the Pac-2 while leaving the rest of the MWC to fend for itself, and that could still happen, but OSU and WSU would have to spend most of their stash from the Pac breakup to do it that way. They will keep more of the money if they either join the MWC or invite the entire MWC to join them.

As for the FCS, the CAA and WAC have been the biggest losers thus far losing more and more members.

“Now the Atlantic Coast Conference features a school with a view of the Pacific Ocean from campus, in Stanford”
Someone didn’t do their research.
I guess it’s possible to see the Pacific Ocean from Berkeley though if you climb up onto the hill behind Cal Memorial Stadium.

Yeah, I was wondering if Ian Curtis is able to see through mountains.

Not using Cal as the example instead was a mistake as you can at least see San Francisco Bay from Berkeley.